Ray Bradbury, Author of ‘Martian Chronicles,’ ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ Dies at 91

Beloved author's books also included "Dandelion Wine," "Something Wicked This Way Comes"

Last Updated: June 6, 2012 @ 10:14 AM

Beloved author Ray Bradbury, who wrote such classics as "Fahrenheit 451," "The Martian Chronicles," "The Illustrated Man," "Dandelion Wine," and "Something Wicked This Way Comes," has died. He was 91.

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Bradbury, who lived in Los Angeles, died after a long illness, his publisher said.

His works were read by everyone from schoolchildren to sci-fi and fantasy afficionados — and sometimes he transformed the former into the latter.

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He moved easily between the tender nostalgia of "Dandelion Wine" to the dystopian future of "Fahrenheit 451" — which imagined a world where firemen burn books. (Its title was said to refer to the temperature at which paper burns.)

The book, a powerful, compact statement against censorship, was especially dear to him. He ordered a tombstone, before he died, at Westwood Village Memorial Park. Along with his name, it reads simply, "Author of Fahrenheit 451."

The book's themes were so familiar that Michael Moore played off of its title with his 2004 anti-Bush Administration film "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Bradbury's impact on pop culture was immeasurable. His stories became bestsellers, and aired on television for six decades on shows including "The Twilight Zone" and "Ray Bradbury Theater." They were made into films including Francois Truffaut's 1966 "Fahrenheit 451" and 1983's "Something Wicked This Way Comes." An adaptation of "Dandelion Wine" is currently underway.

Bradbury also wrote the 1956 film adaptation of John Huston’s, "Moby Dick," and received an Emmy for his 1993 teleplay, "The Halloween Tree."

His literary awards included the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.

Despite the fantastical worlds he created — often for movies and television — he was wary of technology and conspicuous consumption. His breakthrough work, 1950's "The Martian Chronicles," tells a series of interconnected short stories in which warlike humans colonize Mars and kill most of its inhabitants with their germs.

Bradbury refused to drive or take airplanes, and complained about people turning to their cell phones instead of interacting with the human beings in front of them. With "Fahrenheit 451" in 1953, he imagined a world in which books lost their influence in favor of TV, movies, and sports, leading to a less intellectual populace.

One could argue he saw that world come to life. But he wasn't bitter.

In the 2005 book of essays, "Bradbury Speaks," he wrote: “In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior.”

He is survived by his four daughters, Susan Nixon, Ramona Ostergren, Bettina Karapetian, and Alexandra Bradbury, and eight grandchildren. His wife, Marguerite, predeceased him in 2003, after fifty-seven years of marriage.

His publisher said Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932, when he was 12. At the end of his performance Electrico reached out to Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded him, “Live forever!”

“I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard," Bradbury later said. "I started writing every day. I never stopped.”


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